Abuela's Roses

Gardens need tender love and lots of patience, but she wanted to be comforted now.

by
- Posted on Apr 20, 2015

An artist's rendering of an angel with wings made of rose petals

Maybe gardening wasn’t the best plan for today, after all. The sun was broiling. “Let’s go to the movies,” my son, Juan, said. “Where it’s air-conditioned.”

Monica held up her doll. “It’s too hot for us too!”

I wasn’t any more enthusiastic about tending my mother’s garden than they were. What was I thinking even suggesting it? We’d been living with Mom since my divorce, and the memory of our own garden was still fresh in our minds: the red and yellow snapdragons, orange zinnias, and best of all, the beautiful rosebush in the front yard, a gift from my mom when my daughter was born.

I’d never seen such delicate flowers, pale with the slightest hint of pink around the edge of each petal. My roses, my garden, that home, that life—all of it was gone now.

I’d hoped the planting would be comforting, but the rocks, weeds and hard ground were anything but. How could something grow from that? I looked down at the shriveled carrot seeds in my hand. “Maybe we should go to the movies. We can help Abuela with her garden next season....”

READ MORE: A SWEET SURPRISE FROM HEAVEN

Before the children had a chance to reply, Mom came out the back door with a tray of iced glasses topped with red cherries. “Look what I have for my three farmers!” she said. “Lemonade and cookies!”

Leave it to Mom to find just the thing to encourage us. She handed me a napkin. “Dios es bueno,” she reminded me as she so often did.

Carmen Escamilla“God is good.” Mom was always saying that, especially in my despair. She truly believed it would pull me through this terrible time. “Come back home and heal,” she told me when the kids and I moved out. What better place? But it had been weeks, and I wasn’t doing any better. Sadness and guilt overwhelmed me. I felt like a failure. I stared again at the carrot seeds in my hand.

“Let’s get started,” said Mom. “Just think of what this garden will look like come fall.”

I grabbed a hoe and chopped at the ground. “Lord, till my own heart, and remove the hard places within it,” I whispered. Juan and Monica picked out rocks and churned up dirt. Who could resist Mom’s hopeful spirit?

She tipped some more seeds into my gloved hand. “Dios es bueno,” she said.

The children lugged out additives for the soil and helped me mix them. Monica practiced counting out the right number of seeds for each row. Juan made sure each would-be plant was labeled: squash, pumpkin, zucchini, carrots. Monica started singing a song she’d learned at school. Soon all of us were singing along as we worked, digging in time to the music, patting the soil back over the seeded holes.

When we finished we had several rows—and four sweaty farmers. We grabbed hands, and I breathed in the smell of fresh, wet earth. It’s done, I thought. A new life for the garden and a new life for us.

The thought was fleeting. Weeks later, I still mourned my failed marriage, our family of four all together in what appeared on the outside to be a happy home. I still missed my own garden, my delicate pink rosebush. I still worried about the future. It was still hard, some days, to get out of bed. But every morning Juan and Monica pulled me out to the garden to search for signs of new life poking out of the ground.

“It’s taking too long,” Juan said impatiently one day in late August.

Monica stamped her foot. “The plants will never grow,” she told her doll.

“Maybe birds pecked all the seeds up!” said Juan.

READ MORE: THE GREAT PUMPKIN ANGEL

I kneeled and touched the soil. “It may not look like anything is growing, but deep in the soil there’s a lot of activity,” I said. “A gardener has to be patient. We will water and watch and wait. God knows the right time for these plants to come up.”

Juan and Monica went back into the house. I looked down at the empty ground, as impatient as they were. Nothing was growing. Nothing was getting better. For all my talk of watering and waiting, I still felt as helpless and hopeless as those tiny, shriveled seeds I’d held in my hand.

Then one day in late September, Monica yelled from the garden. “Mom! Something’s growing!”

We all ran to the garden. There, poking through the soil, were green tips that would become pumpkins, squash, carrots and zucchini. Now each morning we couldn’t wait to get outside to see the surprises: green tendrils curling out of the ground, tiny pumpkins hiding in leaves.

Soon we had a fall harvest. Mom and I carried the vegetables to the kitchen. Zucchini bread, carrot cake, pumpkin empanadas—there was no end to our bounty. I no longer had my pink roses, but Abuela’s garden had sewn seeds of hope in my heart.

“Let’s bring in one more pumpkin for a pie,” I said. Juan chose a beauty.

“Come see!” Monica called from the back corner of the garden.

Mom, Juan and I ran over. “What is it?” I asked. Monica pointed me to a spot nearly hidden in the shade of other plants. I gasped. There, in the back of our vegetable garden, was a rosebush. A pink rosebush, just like the one I’d left behind.

“Mom, did you plant roses for me?” Mom shook her head. “Then where did they come from?”

“How come we never noticed it growing?” the kids wanted to know.

Dios es bueno,” Mom said with a smile. God is good.

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